Sea-buckthorn is a deciduous shrub originating in Europe and Asia. Climate and soil conditions are ideal in Saskatchewan and as a result, it is now being grown here. The berries are tightly packed around the branches and surrounded by large thorns.
I purchased these berries from Northern Vigor Berries, a Saskatchewan family business (www.northernvigorberries.com/). I spoke with owner Betty Forbes and she tells a story of her stepfather planting an orchard of these shrubs in 1998. “My stepfather is never afraid of a new venture,” says Betty, President of Northern Vigor. “When he heard about the tremendous nutritional value of sea-buckthorn, he was eager to try this new crop.” Betty and her brother, Gregory Bloodoff, have cared for the crop ever since.
According to Agriculture and Agri Food Canada (www.agr.gc.ca) sea-buckthorn berries are among the most nutritious and vitamin-rich fruits found in the plant kingdom. They are rich in vitamins C, E and K, carotenoids, flavonoids, antioxidants, 18 amino acids, and 24 chemical elements such as phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Oil from the seed contains unsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 and 6.
Harvesting the fruit is the biggest challenge. “The long thorns are dangerous,” Betty says. “We wear protective clothing and even the toughest gloves only last a few days.” The branches are cut and put into trucks operating at -20F (-30C). “They have to be kept really cold because of the high oil content in the berries,” Betty explains. The fruit is then taken to a facility where it is cleaned and packaged.
Finding recipes for new food products is a challenge. I have been playing in my kitchen with these berries and developing recipes. I start by cooking them in water and straining to collect the juice. The flavour of these berries reminds me of a blend of oranges and apricots with an exotic twist. I add vanilla bean to mellow out the tartness but I also see it pairing well with cardamom, almond and even chiles.
The berries will taste good in sorbets, ice cream, fools, baked goods and smoothies. The jelly is bursting with flavour.
Green Salad with Sea-Buckthorn Vinaigrette
1 c. sea-buckthorn berries 250 mL
2 tbsp. honey 30 mL
1/2 vanilla bean
2/3 c. olive oil 160 mL
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar 30 mL
1 tsp. Dijon mustard 5 mL
2 tbsp. shallots 30 mL
1/2 c. whole pecans, toasted 125 mL
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt, to taste
mixed salad greens
feta or goat cheese
Gently simmer berries in enough water to cover. When berries have popped remove from heat. Strain through a jelly bag without squeezing the bag. Boil the juice with honey until thickened slightly. Add a few more whole berries, scraped seeds from the vanilla bean and simmer gently. Cool.
Make the vinaigrette but adding oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea buckthorn sauce, shallots and garlic to a jar with a lid. Shake to mix.
Toss salad greens, pecans and vinaigrette. Crumble cheese over the top and serve.
In the recipes I found added pectin was used. A common comment is that these berries are low in natural pectin. I tried making jelly with only sugar and it worked perfectly fine. In my opinion, without scientific tests, these berries do have natural pectin but probably only if you use the whole berry including the seed inside.
Put berries into a heavy bottomed pot. Add enough water to cover. Boil until berries have split open. Mash berries to break them up.
Strain in a jelly bag and save the juice. Set pulp aside for another use.
Measure juice into heavy bottomed pot and add equal amount of sugar. Boil gently until approximately 220F (104C) on a candy thermometer. Do a jelly test. If the syrup sheets off the side of a spoon, it is ready and pour into jars. If not, continue to boil until jelly stage is reached. Refrigerate or water bath process the jars until ready to use.
Sea-Buckthorn and White Chocolate Scones adapted from Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 large egg
2/3 c. cold heavy cream 160 mL
2 c. all purpose flour 500 mL
2 tbsp. sugar 30 mL
1 tbsp. baking powder 15 mL
1/4 tsp. salt 2 mL
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled 75 mL
1/3 c. sea-buckthorn berries 80 mL
1/3 c. white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped 80 mL
Centre an oven rack and preheat to 400F (200C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk egg and cream.
Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add cold butter and cut in until mixture is pebbly. Add the berries and chocolate. Toss to coat with flour.
Pour the egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until a dough forms. Gently knead with your hands.
Turn out the dough onto a work surface and gently knead until it holds together. Divide in half. Pat each into a rough circle, about 1 inch (5 cm) thick. Cut into 6 wedges and place on baking sheet.
Bake 18-22 minutes or until tops are golden. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
2 tbsp. water 30 mL
2 tbsp. tarragon vinegar 30 mL
1/3 c. sea-buckthorn juice 80 mL
2 tbsp. shallots, minced 30 mL
1 1/2 c. chicken stock 350 mL
4 duck breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter 30 mL
2 tbsp. sea-buckthorn berries 30 mL
Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Prepare juice by simmering 1/2 c. (125 mL) sea-buckthorn berries with 1/2 c. (125 mL) water. When the berries burst and are soft, strain through cheesecloth. Reserve juice for this recipe and set aside pulp for another use.
Boil sugar and water for several minutes, until the syrup caramelizes and turns golden brown. Add vinegar, shallots, and chicken stock and simmer until sauce is reduced by about half and slightly thickened. Stir in butter, juice and berries and simmer only until berries are soft. This can be made the day before and refrigerated until use.
With a sharp knife, score the skin on the duck breast in a crisscross pattern being careful not to cut through the meat. In a preheated ovenproof skillet, sear duck breasts, skin side down over medium low heat until browned and much of the fat has rendered out. Remove excess fat as necessary. Turn them and place pan in oven to cook until internal temperature reaches 145F (62C), approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes. The duck will continue to cook and reach an internal temperature of 160F (70C).